Brian Auten’s top 5 books for Christmas giving

From Apologetics 315.

Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of EverythingWho Made God? Completely readable – completely excellent. Actually, one of my favorite reads this year. I thought, I could give this to anyone and they would understand it, enjoy it, and be challenged by it. Full of wit, humor, and sharp thinking. This definitely makes it to the top of my list. (review here)

Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New AtheistsIs God Just a Human Invention? Another book with a question for a title – but questions are good, and this book tackles about 18 of them that are being asked the most these days. Written by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, with contributions from a ton of excellent specialists, this book is a phenomenal resource and doesn’t have to be read in any particular order. (an interview with the authors here)

Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and ScienceEvidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science is another book loaded with great content – 50 essays! – with contributions from a ton of top-notch apologists. A close competitor with the previously mentioned book that happens to be a great resource.

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and PrecisionOn Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig is excellent for personal study or group studies. Weighty material that is clear, precise, and put together really well. I’d give this to Christian young people in high school and college who want to strengthen their apologetics foundations. (review here)

Pocket Handbook of Christian ApologeticsAnd finally, here’s the stocking stuffer of the bunch: Kreeft and Tacelli’s Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics. The reason? Again, lots of material packed into a small book, organized and presented well.

My first choice is “Is God Just a Human Invention”, but I have not read “Who Made God?”, although I have it.

I’m not a big fan of Peter Kreeft’s book. I have never read anything by Kreeft that has the same evidential tone like the stuff that William Lane Craig writes. I am not a big fan of these G. K. Chesterton / C.S. Lewis / Phillip Yancey type people for apologetics. It’s just paper shields and foam swords – totally useless in battle. If you want real apologetics, you want experimental scientists, analytical philosophers and multi-lingual historians. You want guys like Mike Licona and William Lane Craig who have a lot of debating experience.

NOTE: Brian is giving away books to anyone who adds him on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribes to his newsletter.

17 thoughts on “Brian Auten’s top 5 books for Christmas giving”

  1. Wait a minute, you don’t like C. S. Lewis? A “foam sword”, you say? Now here, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one, Wintery, breaking a 100% agreement rate since I started reading.

    Care to expand on your reasoning for denigrating Lewis?

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    1. He tells made-up stories that are not substantiated by peer-reviewed scientific observations from real experiments! That’s not apologetics, it’s just blah blah blah! And Chesterton is blah blah blah on stilts!!!

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      1. Oh Wintery, you so-and-so! :-)

        Well here’s the thing, the man used allegory and story-telling to make his case, there’s nothing wrong with that, but remember, his audience was a recently post-war Britain and he was a Lit prof!

        I think you have a predisposition against “literature” because you’re an Engineer (like I used to have; I studied EE in college), but in time, I believe you’ll come to see the value of storytelling. There are not that many scientist engineers in the world compared to everyone else.

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  2. Your disdain for Kreeft, Lewis, Chesterton etc is noted. But consider also this quote from Pascal:
    “Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true. Venerable, because it has perfect knowledge of man; lovable because it promises the true good.”
    The Craigs and Liconas do not make Christianity lovable. They come in at the very last stage, in proving that it is true. Unless you engage the hearts of people, they will not listen to what you have to say no matter how logical it is. Ignoring hearts is a perilous exercise as it suggests the apologist cares more about winning the argument, than winning a soul of Christ.

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    1. Well, I note that many, many, many good apologists like you, who are far more qualified and talented than I am, admire lewis and chesterton. In fact, the Apologist-King Brian Auten wrote to me personally this morning to chastise me for my comments.

      But I am WK, and not like everyone else.

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      1. I think that last sentence sums it up. You have a different calling and different skills from others. Some people have the kind of problems with faith that needs a facts-based approach, and people like you can work on that. Other people have other ways of thinking and need different things answered.
        (For example, most askers of “Why do God allow bad things to happen” are not agressive atheists who need a factual answer, but hurt people needing reasons why their hearts can trust a God who did not help.)

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  3. Great list of books. Ya, your reasons for not liking Lewis, Chesterton, and Kreeft is flawed. In fact, I don’t like some apologists reliance on the scientific method, which is essentially a logical fallacy (read Karl Popper), to prove God. However, I do read the Dempskis and Behes of this world because I find they are useful in our present world. Even Dempski understands that his development of the argument from design does not point to the Christian God (read his contribution in “To Everyone an Answer”) However, Lewis and Chesterton have a focus on something more fundamental than science, that being philosophy. The scientific method is based on the philosophy of Lord Bacon who was influenced by his contemporary philosopher Descartes. Chesterton, whos book Orthodoxy, should be read by all apologists, no all Christians. Lewis is not my favorite but his Abolition of Man was very well written, also a must read. Miracles as also a good one. Scientific apologetics is as useful as the listener thinks science is useful in explaining absolute truth. (I personally don’t hold much regard in science for this) Science, to me, is the result of the Christian worldview, but is used for other ends. That makes it useful, but not the most useful. The Bible is. Jesus, Paul, and John were high level philosophers. (perfect in Jesus’ case) We should then not ignore philosophical considerations. (Even if one’s mind works better in the strict philosophy of science) A good work on this is Gordon H Clark’s “A Christian View of Men and Things”.

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  4. I’m currently reading and enjoying “On Guard”, which a kind friend gave me. :) I also have “Evidence for God”, which I’m looking forward to reading.

    However, WK, I must say that I agree with those who think you’ve been too hasty in dismissing Lewis, et al. I enjoy Chesterton and am very fond of reading Lewis (even as I disagree with him on certain points of theology). Remember that there are uses for different kinds of swords in different battle contexts. One setting calls for the fencer’s rapier, while another calls for the claymore. Each is useful in the right place.

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  5. Oh-kay! So a 6 year old will totally understand William Lane Craig’s debates more than ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. Oh what about the poor not-all-that-literate people in my country who want to be Christian? You think I should start with kalam cosmological argument with them? C’mon WK, I’ve said this so many times here before. There is a level for kindergartners and a level for post graduates. Now if you say you only care about highly intellectual people’s faith, then fine! Be honest and say you don’t care about the spread of Christianity in third world countries, I’ll accept. You willfully being adamant does get to me but I will accept it anyway.

    But just a thought. If using a story telling method is the only flaw of people like Chesterton and Lewis, don’t you think Jesus Himself was guilty of it? Are you saying you don’t like His parables? Jesus knew the men he chose were fishermen and He simplified things for their sake. He taught them everything there was to be learnt and He used simple stories to explain big things. Sometimes I feel you just don’t care about what Jesus did to spread His ministry. It is His ministry you want us all to spread, right? So why so much disdain for a method Jesus Himself approved of?

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    1. Sigh! I know I am being needlessly harsh when I disagree with you these days… I am sorry. Though I still disagree with you, I could have been politer.

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  6. Wow, Wintery.
    They all told you.
    Guess that means I don’t have to.
    All the same, I’m glad to have have been introduced to On Guard and the info it contains.

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  7. Eh? I haven’t read up a whole lot on G.K. Chesterton, but C.S. Lewis watering down Christianity? The guy advocated the importance of apologetics, the difference between objective and subjective morality (and argued that morals are objective), that God cannot ever truly be “ignored”, that all people have the problem of sin, that all people need Christ, that miracles are logically possible given God’s existence (opposing Hume and Spinoza), etc.

    Unless you’re thinking about his non-apologetic material like “A Grief Observed” which is basically a collection of his journal entries after the passing of his wife and his short-lived marriage. Then again, it was never meant to be an apologetic at all, so if it were the case that you are referring to those particular writings of Lewis, then I would have to say that you are mistaken.

    And similar to you WK, I’m a software engineer (well, I’m going to be after two more semesters, hehe), and so I fall on the same side of the line as you in terms of approaching things primarily on a fact, evidence, and reason-based approach. That being said, I also know that I am a personal, emotional being with emotional needs. Don’t let the language fool you given the myriad of people who use this excuse to follow idols of their own making or justify abortion or justify same-sex marriages and whatnot. Human beings are just dynamic like that, and I think it is safe to say that we can praise God for giving us emotions that we can use to express ourselves (though He does tell us NOT to use our emotions as moral indicators or as guides to decision-making…He did not create emotions for that purpose).

    So some people who are lost actually don’t need apologetics…or should I say, not YET. They need emotional and spiritual help; especially when it comes to the problem of evil. In fact, William Lane Craig personally distinguishes between giving an emotional argument/answer versus the intellectual argument/answer to the problem, and giving the wrong answer in the wrong situation will not yield good results. Giving a distraught person the intellectual answer would seem too cold and “distant”–the person needs comfort, not a syllogism; they need a substantive hope and a word of encouragement, not a point-by-point analysis.

    So we apologists have a particular role to play in the Body of Christ given our gifts from the Holy Spirit correct? But we have to steward these gifts well, and part of that is the prudence and discernment to understand when to offer reason, and when to offer comfort. Giving comfort can draw a person to Christ, offering reason can compel a person to believe in Christ; comfort and hope are pulling forces, reason and evidence are pushing forces.

    Apologists prescribe a sort of medication, and certainly, all Christians ought to have good intellectual foundations and a deep understanding of many things, but the medication must match the ailment.

    Taking fish oil is good for cardiovascular health, even as a daily supplement, and if you have a bad heart, then the doctor will ESPECIALLY prescribe this (as an example). Now, if we have a splitting headache, then the fish oil will do no good, but that’s not to say that the fish oil has absolutely no use, nor is the doctor downplaying fish oil’s use.

    In the same way, apologetics and other means in fulfilling the Great Commission are very much like this.

    Take care and God bless WK. :)

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